The Warble

The Official Blog of Karen Ullo

Can I Eat That? A Guide to Weird Lenten Foods

I live in Louisiana, where it’s actually quite difficult to consider Lent a penitential season. No meat—go eat seafood. Um, okay.

But there are plenty of more obscure ways to fulfill your Lenten fast. So just in case you somehow manage to get tired of crawfish, crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, and a thousand varied species of fish (or if you’re one of those poor souls who lives in a land-locked place), here are a few other items you might consider adding to your Lenten table.

  1. Alligator

Gator is good, y’all. It’s so good, even alligators eat it. Personally, I like it blackened, that is, coated in a spice mixture and sautéed, but it’s also often served fried. If you can find it, try it. However, I’m still searching to find the part where eating this is penitential.

By the way, according to the USCCB website, all reptiles are fair game, so if you’ve got a hankering for rattlesnake or iguana, eat up.

  1. Muskrat and Beaver

I admit, I’ve never tried these, but long-standing oral tradition in the Michigan area held that they were Lent-approved because of their status as aquatic creatures, and the archbishop of Detroit made it official in 2002. According to Bishop Kenneth Povish of Lansing, “Anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest saints.” If it tastes anything like nutria—which I have tried—he’s 100% correct, and we should probably all be eating aquatic rodents for Lent. Which brings me to…

  1. Capybara

Don’t eat the monkeys.

Spanish missionaries in South America received a papal bull to have the capybara named a “fish” for Lenten purposes. Although it is another aquatic rodent, this one is supposed to be delicious, and it’s a regular Lenten dish to this day in Venezuela and other South American countries. Or so the Internet says. I kind of doubt it’s all that popular because I have a friend from Venezuela who says she wouldn’t eat one, and she’s pretty adventurous with her food. We’ve traded recipes for octopus.

  1. Hippo

If you want to continue the Lenten traditions of your African ancestors (or your Portuguese ancestors who evangelized Africa), you’re going to need a really, really big gun. And escape routes, because hippos are the deadliest large land mammal. The penitential part of this one is likely to be the hospital stay after you get bitten or sat on, assuming you survive.

  1. Puffin

It seems there was a bit of a dust-up over the practice of eating Puffin during Lent in a seventeenth-century French monastery. The Archbishop of Rouen forbade it because fowl are Lenten no-nos, so the monks assembled scientists to help prove their point that puffin was “more fish than fowl,” and the archbishop eventually relented. So I guess if you’re desperate for the taste of fowl this Lent, head to Normandy for some puffin hunting!

Jennifer the Damned Named Best Horror Book of 2019

Catholic Reads has issued its Best of 2019 list, and Jennifer the Damned is their pick for favorite horror novel of the year! This is what they have to say:

Unlike other vampire novels, Jennifer the Damned treats death with the gravitas and consequences it deserves. Jennifer doesn’t revel in killing people, but fresh human blood is the only thing that can sustain her. No “vegetarian” vampires here! The story doesn’t hold back from how Catholic it is, either.

You can get your copy here, but don’t forget to check out all of the other awesome winners, too!

Karen Ullo is the author of two novels, Jennifer the Damned and Cinder Allia. She is also the managing editor of Dappled Things and a regular contributor to She lives in Baton Rouge, LA with her husband and two young sons. Find out more at

An Artist’s Advent

Wait. Prepare.

The fulfillment is coming.

Wait. Prepare.

Every year, I begin teaching my church choir a new anthem for Christmas in August. To prepare for Christmas is not the work of four weeks, but more than four months. To prepare to begin preparing takes even longer. First, I must search for music suited to our particular ensemble, and then, once it arrives, prepare myself to prepare others.

The fulfillment is delayed. Bring plenty of oil for your lamps.


Of course, there have been many other Christmases before this one, many years of service that taught me how to serve. Before that came long years of training, countless hours spent in practice rooms, recitals given, papers written, rehearsals that lasted until midnight. Ensembles and solos, juries and competitions, theory tests and history grades—all to prepare for dreams that had nothing to do with Midnight Mass or Holy Week or the thousands of Sundays in between.

The fulfillment is coming like a thief in the night, to catch us unaware.


Books take longer than music to prepare. Books linger in my spirit long enough to grow with me, to be shaped as I am shaped by the trials and lessons of time. We are symbiotic, the book and I, engaging and challenging each other to be better, go deeper, evolve. The Advent of a novel lasts not only until the story is told, but until it has taught me all that it can—as an artist, as a person, as a Christian.

May it be fulfilled in me according to your word.


We do not wait passively in Advent, but with the passion of rehearsing until midnight or writing a chapter’s fifteenth draft. Every advent we’ve ever lived has prepared us to prepare ourselves anew. Christ is not born in us only to leave. He lives with us, using each of life’s fulfillments to prepare us for the day when He comes to us again.

The fulfillment is coming.

Wait. Prepare.

Karen Ullo is the author of two novels, Jennifer the Damned and Cinder Allia. She is also the managing editor of Dappled Things and a regular contributor to She lives in Baton Rouge, LA with her husband and two young sons. Find out more at

Cyber Week Sale on Cinder Allia!

Cyber Week Sale on Cinder Allia! Now until 12/6, the paperback is only $11.99 on Amazon (regular $13.99). Share your favorite fairy tale with your favorite readers this season!

Best fantasy novel of 2017, Catholic Reads
2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, finalist, fantasy
2019 Recipient of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

Cinder Allia has spent eight years living under her stepmother’s brutal thumb, wrongly punished for having caused her mother’s death. She lives for the day when the prince will grant her justice; but her fairy godmother shatters her hope with the news that the prince has died in battle. Allia escapes in search of her own happy ending, but her journey draws her into the turbulent waters of war and politics in a kingdom where the prince’s death has left chaos and division.Cinder Allia turns a traditional fairy tale upside down and weaves it into an epic filled with espionage, treason, magic, and romance. What happens when the damsel in distress must save not only herself, but her kingdom? What price is she willing to pay for justice? And can a woman who has lost her prince ever find true love? Surrounded by a cast that includes gallant knights, turncoat revolutionaries, a crippled prince who lives in hiding, a priest who is also a spy, and the man whose love Allia longs for most—her father—Cinder Allia is an unforgettable story about hope, courage, and the healing power of pain.

Karen Ullo is the author of two novels, Jennifer the Damned and Cinder Allia. She is also the managing editor of Dappled Things literary journal and a regular Meatless Friday chef for She lives in Baton Rouge, LA with her husband and two young sons. Find out more at